Recently Omar Barghouti has been speaking on college campuses in favor of BDS. One of the stories he likes to tell is about IDF soldiers allegedly
“hunting children,” saying that sharpshooter Israeli soldiers target Palestinian children and shoot to kill, and that the soldiers “entice them like mice” into playing football and then shoot them with silencers.
So how does Barghouti know this? The source is an article by viciously anti-Israel journalist Chris Hedges that appeared in Harper’s Magazine in 2001. Here is the relevant passage:
The boys dart in small packs up the sloping dunes to the electric fence that separates the camp from the Jewish settlement. They lob rocks toward two armored jeeps parked on top of the dune and mounted with loudspeakers. Three ambulances line the road below the dunes in anticipation of what is to come.
A percussion grenade explodes. The boys, most no more than ten or eleven years old, scatter, running clumsily across the heavy sand. They descend out of sight behind a sandbank in front of me. There are no sounds of gunfire. The soldiers shoot with silencers. The bullets from the M-16 rifles tumble end over end through the children’s slight bodies. Later, in the hospital, I will see the destruction: the stomachs ripped out, the gaping holes in limbs and torsos.
Yesterday at this spot the Israelis shot eight young men, six of whom were under the age of eighteen. One was twelve. This afternoon they kill an eleven-year-old boy, Ali Murad, and seriously wound four more, three of whom are under eighteen. Children have been shot in other conflicts I have covered—death squads gunned them down in El Salvador and Guatemala, mothers with infants were lined up and massacred in Algeria, and Serb snipers put children in their sights and watched them crumple onto the pavement in Sarajevo—but I have never before watched soldiers entice children like mice into a trap and murder them for sport.
And he didn’t see it this time, either. What he reports is that he heard no shots, and then later saw injured children in the hospital whom the Palestinians said the Israelis shot. So of course the soldiers had to be using silencers! Hedges apparently didn’t consider the much simpler hypothesis that the the soldiers shot no one and the Palestinians were lying.
But here is a lie, like the one about the shooting of Mohammad Dura, which has traveled halfway around the world before the truth got its pants on. Barghouti made it even juicier by adding the part about playing football.
Indeed, it is favorite trope of the Arabs and their supporters to say that Israel deliberately targets civilians and especially children, although careful research based on mortality data  shows that the exact opposite is true:
Palestinian claims, journalistic summaries, Kofi Annan’s comments, and instances of excessive force to the contrary, the mortality data show no sign of systematic targeting of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces. Nor do they show any signs that the Israeli forces are systematically failing to avoid targeting Palestinian civilians. On the contrary, the fact that less than 5 percent of Palestinian casualties are either women, elderly, or young children, in comparison to more than 40 percent of Israeli casualties, supports the key Israeli claim: that the higher number of Palestinian deaths reflects the high number of Palestinian attacks on Israeli targets, not the reverse. This is the reason for the huge bulge in male mortality from late childhood through middle age among the Palestinians.
Arabs, on the other hand, have perpetrated numerous attacks in which a high proportion of victims were children. Here’s a partial list:
The Ma’alot massacre, in which 25 Israelis were killed including 22 children, the Bus of Blood (35 dead, 13 children), the attack on the nursery at Kibbutz Misgav Am (4 dead, 1 2-year-old), the Dolphinarium bombing (21 teens dead), the Sbarro Pizza bombing (15 dead, 5 children), the shooting at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva (8 dead, 7 teens), the vicious butchering of the Fogel family (5 dead, 3 children), the antitank rocket attack on a yellow school bus (1 child) …
Not only that, but they are not loathe to put their own children at risk (from the 2002 study quoted above):
A standard Israeli position since September 2000 has been that (a) young Palestinian teens and children actively participate in violent activities, especially in the throwing of Molotov cocktails and stones; and (b) Palestinian gunmen have frequently fired at Israeli positions from among these young demonstrators, inviting Israeli return fire. Journalists, non-partisan international observers, and human rights monitors have tended to agree with these claims. In August 2000, before the outbreak of the violence, The New York Times reported the existence of summer camps in which 27,000 Palestinian children had participated the past summer, learning guerrilla tactics, how to operate firearms, practicing kidnapping, etc. In October 2000, the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) urged the PA to take energetic measures to discourage those under 18 years of age from participating in any violent action because such action places them at risk.
The lie that Israel targets children is a specialty of anti-Israel ‘journalists’ like Gideon Levy and Amira Hass of Ha’aretz and anti-Zionists like Alison Weir (the subject of a forthcoming post). It has particular resonance in the West, whose emotional buttons it pushes.
But like most of what comes from the mouths and keyboards of Barghouti, Levy, Hass and Weir, it is a vicious lie.